Photo/IllutrationYoshio Koide congratulates Naoko Takahashi after she won the marathon at the 2000 Sydney Olympics. (Asahi Shimbun file photo)

  • Photo/Illustraion

A beloved coach who guided female marathoners Naoko Takahashi and Yuko Arimori to Olympic glory died on April 24 of pneumonia.

Yoshio Koide was 80.

Although Koide never competed in the Olympics or the world championships, he developed programs tailored to groom athletes into world-class runners.

Takahashi, who became the first Japanese woman marathoner to win an Olympic gold at the 2000 Sydney Summer Olympics, explained how Koide had patiently guided her even though she was not strong.

"I am so full of gratitude for him that there are not enough 'thank-yous' to express how I feel," she said.

In contrast to the strict, spartan image of Japanese coaches of the past, Koide always insisted that athletes would never improve unless they enjoyed themselves. He made a point of always praising his runners to help them improve.

Not dissuaded by some people's criticism over the possible adverse health effects, Koide went ahead with training Takahashi in Boulder, Colorado, at an altitude of about 3,500 meters. The demanding mountainous environment helped the runner known as "Q-chan" secure first place at the 2001 Berlin Marathon in a world-record time of 2 hours, 19 minutes, 46 seconds.

Before Takahashi, Koide coached Arimori to a silver medal at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and a bronze at the 1996 Atlanta Games. She was the first Japanese woman to win an Olympic medal in the marathon.

Meeting with reporters on April 24, Arimori, 52, said the last time she saw Koide was at the Nagoya International Women's Marathon in March.

Admitting that she and Koide did not always see eye to eye over his training methods, Arimori said, "He always looked toward the future and often said that the most important thing about training was to break with accepted knowledge."

Arimori said she regretted that she would not be able to watch the marathon events with her former coach at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

Hiromi Suzuki, another runner who trained under Koide, won the world title in the women's marathon at the 1997 world championships in Athens, Greece.

(Hideyuki Kaneshige contributed to this article.)